James Wilson Photography

 Can you briefly discuss your photographic history in relations to the Wilson Studio?

Historically speaking, Wilson Studio is four generations old starting in 1878 in Saint John New Brunswick, Canada with photographer Isaac Erb and then his son John carried on.  My father “Lew Wilson” bought the business from John’s widow in 1939 and changed the name to Wilson Studio.  I worked with my father as a boy after school getting my feet wet in the magic world of photography.

After high school I left for New York City to study photography.  The Big Apple changed my life and I fell in love with photography as an artistic medium.  Fine Art became my passion.  When I returned to Canada I did work with my father at Wilson Studio doing commercial photography but perused my artistic career on the side

You have a new studio in Hampton New Brunswick in Canada can you give us a small taste of the landscape that is so near your studio?

After inheriting Wilson Studio being in my mid thirties I took the opportunity to make a huge change, a gamble really. I built a new studio 30 kilometers from Saint John in beautiful Hampton, New Brunswick with photo art gallery, conventional darkrooms and digital production. This studio features design elements much like the original Erb studio on Charlotte Street in Saint John with a large north light window. Much like Isaac Erb I used the big window  as a source of light for portraiture, product photography and still life work. Wilson Studio is now surrounded with beautiful gardens in addition to the spectacular views of the Kennebecassis River.  Drifting away from commercial work my artistic career took off with many exhibitions both nationally and internationally.  I concentrated on landscape, still life and black and white portraiture, all of which I love exploring.

My home and studio is located on the edge of a large fresh water marsh in the Kennebecasis River.  The landscape here is spectacular.  Being an artist it’s impossible to ignore.  I have been seduced by nature, so landscapes have been a big part of my portfolio.


 Flood Plain Forest

Flood Plain Forest

My wife Cathy is a passionate gardener and our country home is adorned with beautiful flower gardens.  I often bring flowers into my studio and I photograph them with window light.



 I use large format cameras both film and digital I can make large prints.  In regards to still using large format film, I scan these negatives to allow for quality digital output.  Now with the latest technologies at hand using Photoshop and high-end archival digital printers I can do everything in house.  I just wish my father were still alive to see this advancement …. he would love it.

James with Floral Prints

James with Floral Prints

Discuss your current floral work Lush

STILL-LIFES:  Black Tulip for instance a photograph from my last floral exhibition titled “LUSH” took 4 hours to make.  I used of course the natural window light in my studio but played with reflectors both white cards and mirrors to come to the look I was seeking. Prints from this image were then made 44’ x 44” on my HP pro large format printer on Hahnemuhle fine art paper.

Black Tulip

  Black Tulip

LANDSCAPE:  The bulk of my print sales are my landscape works.  I think it’s because people relate to the land, sometimes it’s an emotional attraction and sometimes it’s a primal one.  It’s been said that there is calmness to my images and this makes them work well in our homes and workplace as a counter weight to our busy lives.

Snow Line

Snow Line

Colour, quality of light and composition are the important elements to these images.


Winter Berries

If I see a possible scene, I go back to it when I think the light is right to illuminate the strength of that scene.  Sometimes it takes several tries.  I use a panoramic camera often, as I like how it frames the scene.

 Morning Sunrise

Morning Sunrise

 In regards to my prints, I do all my own printing and framing.  I guess I am a control freak in that sense, as I like my work to have good presentation and be of a high archival standard at the same time.  This is what good art collectors expect.

 Salt Water Marsh - Harvey Bank

Salt Water Marsh, Harvey Bank

PORTRAITS:  Like my father I have always loved taking portraits of people.

Retied Mill WorkerRetired Mill Worker

I like using black and white in particular as it allows you to see the person more clearly by eliminating the colour that can be a distraction.

I also think that black and white has a timeless quality to it as well.  I had the good fortune to work on a book on artists in my native Provence here in Canada “Painters of New Brunswick”.

I chose to photograph everyone in their own environment, in black and white and in an indicative style to that of the artist themselves. Example the shot of Yvon Gallant an Acadian artist that never paints in details of the faces of his subjects.  I was determined to not show his face either.  Knowing his quirky sense of humor, I brought along a Mardi Gras mask and had him hold it while he stands in the midst of the chaos in his own studio.  I think it works quite well

 Yvon GallantYvon Gallant

“Social Studies Series” This long-term project that I have been working on is called “Social Studies” In this portrait project I bring people into my studio and photograph them with the natural window light source.  These subjects are chosen from all walks of life and will be an exhibition and book in 2017.

Chef & Meat Cutter,


Chief                                                                                    Meat Cutter

Everybody gets the same treatment from rich to poor, from doctor to panhandler, all photographed in front of a neutral background in black and white and the same lighting.  The only thing everyone has in common is that they all live in New Brunswick.  I believe that this project will be an important documentary that will stand the test of time portraying who we are as Maritime Canadians looking out at the rest of the world at this time in history.

Social Worker & Nun,

Social Worker                                            Nun              


Yes, I sometimes get an idea and run with it over a period of time, first to challenge me to perhaps use my camera differently and break away from my usual traditional style of art.  An example would be the body of work I titled “DANCE figura”.

Allegro figura

 Allegro Figura

I had this idea of capturing the human body in motion on a single frame.  Periodically over two years I photographed 2 women separately.  Through choreographed moves and long exposures I made a series of images. This took great patience from my models as there were many repetitive moves to get exactly what I wanted.  For example the image called “ Red Line” the model counted 50 takes to get it right.  An interesting note:  the two models never met each other until the night of the gallery opening for “DANCE figura”.

Red Line

Red Line

WORKSHOPS:  For the last 12 years I have been teaching photography workshops, many in Mexico, Japan and Eastern Canada. It has been very rewarding to pass on knowledge about what I have learned in my lifetime of photography.  Mexico in particular is a perfect place to teach colour, composition and design.

Man in San Miguel

 Man in San Miguel

The Mexicans love colour and interiors and exteriors of the buildings are so richly painted.  Here also one can practice the art of street photography as this country has such a rich culture and so much happening on the streets. The image “Promise of Spring – Mexican Window” shows the richness of colour I am referring to, as well a sample of old Spanish colonial window design.  It was early February, the first of spring in Mexico and the Bougainvillea vines around the window are just about to leaf-out and bloom with the “promise of spring”.

Mexican Window

 Mexican Window

 EXHIBITING AND PRINT SALES:  Exhibiting my work is very important as it gives my work gallery status and keeps one in the market place especially with regards to print sales. My work in now in many corporate, private and public collections including the national gallery of Canada and 6 Canadian Embassies. Each time I embrace a new project or exhibition it is very important to me as an artist to keep raising the bar in regards to technical quality and artistic expression.  It helps to keep me engaged and inspired.

James in New Studio 2


Contact details:


Interview by Deborah Blakeley, December, 2015